Humphrey School News—December 15, 2014

University of Minnesota, Humphrey School Launch Collaboration with Human Rights Watch

Students to work alongside one of the world's largest human rights organizations

Minneapolis, MN—The Humphrey School of Public Affairs today announced an exciting initiative with Human Rights Watch (HRW), which will provide University of Minnesota graduate students the opportunity to work directly with the prestigious human rights organization. The 11 graduate students—carefully selected from around the University for their academic and professional background in international affairs, development, and human rights—will conduct their work during the spring 2015 semester, helping HRW evaluate its research methods.

HRW has asked the University of Minnesota students to inventory the various ways in which the global organization goes about collecting its data, evaluate the various research methods, and then offer suggestions for improvement based on best practices of other organizations. The students’ work will take place within the structure of a “Capstone” project, typically conducted by Humphrey School students during the last semester of their graduate training, in collaboration with a public service agency; nonprofit organization; or local, state, or federal government agency. They will work with Humphrey School faculty member and Harold E. Stassen Chair James Ron and Mary Curtin, Humphrey School diplomat-in-residence. Both have extensive experience in international affairs and human rights work.

Eric Schwartz, dean of the Humphrey School, says, “Human Rights Watch is regarded by many as the most influential human rights advocacy organization in the world and we are delighted to begin this collaboration. Our students crave real world experience and the opportunity to work alongside practitioners—this project provides them the opportunity to do both, preparing them for careers in the international politics and human rights.”

The students will first identify the different ways in which HRW collects its data, including confidential interviews with witnesses, officials, security force personnel, key informants, and sundry vulnerable populations, as well as satellite images, quantitative data, and more. Then, students will interview members of HRW’s global research team, exploring the pros and cons of each method. In a final stage, the students will draw on best practices from other organizations, and on the scholarly literature, to evaluate HRW’s practices, and suggest new areas for investigation. The program will officially begin with a workshop at the Humphrey School on December 16, led by Iaine Levine, HRW’s deputy executive director for programs, and by Brian Root, HRW’s key research methodology expert.

With more than 400 staff and an annual budget of $75 million, HRW has headquarters in New York, Washington, D.C., and London, and operates research, advocacy, and fundraising offices worldwide. Associate Professor Jim Ron has consulted for HRW since 1992, conducting research for the group in Israel/Palestine, Nigeria, Turkey, Kosovo, Ingushetia, and Kyrgyzstan. Much of his research focuses on the work, and policy impact, of human rights groups. Mary Curtin is a former career U.S. diplomat, with substantial experience in public policy, international affairs, and human rights analysis.

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